Lymph nodes swollen (Lymphatic swelling)  (Lymphedema)

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Finding a good herbalist

Much of what's written in this article is entirely suitable for a person to work through themselves but, especially if things are quite bad, or you just know that you need further help, then there may be a great deal of benefit to you to go to whatever lengths necessary to find a good herbalist or truly holistic practitioner to guide you on to a safe and strong treatment program. There's a short write-up to suggest how you might go about finding such a person here

Lymphatic health

Lymph glands are like most things in our bodies in the sense that we will never give them a moment's thought unless there is something actually wrong with them at which point it is hard to think about much else!

I will not go into a description of lymph function and what can go wrong because I assume you will already have this information or can easily find it elsewhere, rather what follows are some effective and entirely natural strategies that have been seen to help a great deal to improve improve lymphatic function in general.


Immune health

First of all, if you have chronically swollen lymph nodes or any kind of lymphatic system health issue then you should consider it highly likely that your immune system in general needs a helping hand. Immune health is such a vital part of my work that this website includes a very detailed article on the subject including a series of steps to help determine what areas may be causing a problem as well as what to do about it if that is the case. Rather than replicate that information here I suggest you take time to study that article in full and then what follows are more some herbs and exercises that specifically help lymphatic health. The immune health article is here.



As well as its deep connection to immune system health we also know that the lymphatic system is very much involved in removing debris from the tiny spaces between cells within the body and in many cases the main issue behind a chronically congested lymphatic system is a pressing need for cleansing!

I analyse the blood of my patients under a powerful microscope to help me see how much of a priority a cleansing process might be right now but how you might know that this is where you most need to direct your attention to this area is simply to have a good look at your own tongue!

A thick, coloured (cream to yellow) coating on the tongue may be all the evidence required to consider toxicity as a key cause to a lymphatic system problem. If there are other such classic signs such as a low appetite in the morning, high sensitivity to strong smells and chemicals and unusually high levels of irritability then I definitely recommend giving attention to this vital area.

Detoxification is an area that is rife with myths and misunderstandings. If you think that this is an area that needs attention in your life then start by reading this article called 'what is detoxification' here. An approach that I have found to be consistently helpful in this area time and again is to simply use a cleansing diet along with two particularly potent herbs. The cleansing diet is written up here, the best herb I know to clean the blood through the kidneys is Juniper, more about it here and the most potent herb I know to clean the blood through the liver is Celandine, more here. The simple, effective and economic way I use these two great herbs together is described in practical detail here.


Exercise and Massage

The blood vessels have the heart to both push and thereby also pull back the blood in a constant endless loop. The lymphatic vessels have no such pump, so how then how does its fluid move? It moves because we move and without movement there will inevitably be lymphatic congestion and swelling. If you have been exploring this area in depth then you will likely have already come across the practice of lymphatic massage and I can certainly recommend this as a viable option but, if it is at all possible, I and others primarily recommend movement as the most important way to ensure a healthy lymphatic drainage.

The very best of exercises for this involves bouncing and, whilst I do realise this will simply not be an option for some people because of age or disability, if you are able to procure a mini-trampoline (sometimes called a lymphaciser!) then these are in fact extremely gentle on the joints and are an excellent way to move and clean a congested lymphatic system. Further to that any kind of exercise will help and walking and swimming are ideal for their whole-body effects and gentle sustainability.


Herbs for the Lymphatic System


This is the most gentle of the lymphatic herbs but do not be persuaded by this safety or its great beauty that it lacks any potency! Calendula is entirely suitable to use as a tea or a tincture internally for any length of time and this is important to know for a person who may have a chronic problem that requires a long term treatment. I have much more detailed information on Calendula in its own article here.

Calendula officinalis



This common and rather reviled herb (at least by gardeners) is nevertheless a remarkably potent cleansing ally, especially active on the lymphatic system. I write in its article reviewing the literature on Cleavers one has to come to the conclusion that this herb has an astonishingly powerful reputation for such an unprepossessing plant! I might not want to use Cleavers for as long as Calendula unless a person had an especially hot constitution (more about that fascinating subject here) but I have found it to give sure and reliable help to people with swollen lymph glands, much more info on it here.

Poke root

Lastly this herb is both the most potent but also by far the most dangerous of all the lymphatic cleansing herbs and really must be used with great care and respect. I will use very small amounts of Poke root when the severity of the condition warrants it but I must urge you to only use it if you have expert guidance by someone who is experienced in the use of the particular extract that are using (different preparations of Poke root will greatly vary in their strength and the level required for it to work is not too far under the level that will cause toxicity). I have to mention it in this section because it is just so good but be warned, it can make you really sick if you are not very careful with it! More here.

Phytolacca decandra (Poke root)

Putting it all together

In practice for a person with chronically swollen lymph glands I would likely use at least the first two and possibly the Poke root together in the same formula and in most cases I would expect to need to support their immune systems at the same time. We might come up with something that looked a bit like this

Lymphatic Cleansing Formula

Echinacea root 50mls
Astragalus root 50mls
Cleavers 40mls
Calendula 40mls
Licorice root 20mls
(optional Poke root 2-5mls)

This makes up approximately 200mls of the liquid herbal extracts/tinctures that we make in our clinic from the raw material of dried organic herbs and our own distilled ethanol and water. Dosage is a crucial key to the success of herbal medicine, too little won't help and too much can overdo what the body can use to its best potential. The dose of this formula for an adult might be around 4 or 5 mls twice a day but honestly it could be half or even double that much depending on the person; how robust they were, how urgent is their need, how long-standing is their problem etc.

I talk about Echinacea (more here) and Astragalus (more here) at the beginning of the immune article that I linked at the top of this article. They are, in my opinion, the two greatest and most versatile immune tonic herbs that we have and I use a very great deal of them in my work. You can see I have put some Licorice root in this formula (more details on it here), this is because it is also a great immune tonic herb in its own right but also because it makes the formula a great deal more palatable and easy to take!

The use of a formula such as the above, plus cleansing when it is needed, plus movement and exercise and/or massage, will usually see an excellent response but, if you have had a problem for a long time you must be prepared to be patient. So long as the treatment is working then stick with it for as long as you need. Eventually, the only way to know for sure if you still need the herbs etc. will be to stop and see if things get worse again...

Echinacea angustifolia

Constitutional Health Note

It may be of great benefit to learn about your constitution to help know about what kinds of food, herbs, exercises etc. will best help you in general as well as with any issues with your lymphatic health. In my own practice I have noticed that the cool & dry constitutions, the Elephant/Butterflies, are the ones most likely to develop a problem with blocked lymph nodes followed by the other dryer constitution, the Eagles. In any case constitutional health is an old and fascinating way of understanding our differences, there is a brief introduction to it here and a more detailed section on working out which constitution you are here.

Please understand that I cannot personally advise you without seeing you in my clinic.
This living 'book' is my labour of love so, wherever you are, I wish you peace & good health!



© 2011 R.J.Whelan Ltd